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Oral history interview with Marion Jones by Eugene Pfaff


Date: October 14, 1979

Interviewee: Marion B. Jones

Biographical abstract: Rev. Marion Jones (1918- ) helped found the Greensboro chapter of CORE.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description:

In this transcript of an October 14, 1979, oral history interview conducted by Eugene Pfaff with Marion Jones, Jones describes the formation of the local CORE chapter in Greensboro, recalling the members of the chapter, and the chain of events leading up to its organization. He explains the role played by the Ministerial Alliance in supporting CORE members and their activities. He describes the processes used to make decisions for the CORE chapter on actions and strategies, and discusses his communications with the national office. Key players mentioned include James Farmer, Bill Thomas, and Jesse Jackson.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.534

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Civil Rights Greensboro and the appropriate repository.



Oral history interview with Marion Jones by Eugene Pfaff

EUGENE PFAFF:

—of course, some brief biographical information from you.

MARION JONES:

All right.

EP:

The year of your birth?

MJ:

May 23, 1918.

EP:

And where did you grow up?

MJ:

Well, born in Fayetteville, reared in Greensboro. And that's it.

EP:

You attended the pub[lic]-

MJ:

Dudley High.

EP:

Dudley High School? And what year did you graduate?

MJ:

[Nineteen] Thirty-seven.

EP:

And where did you attend college?

MJ:

Livingstone [College] at Salisbury [North Carolina].

EP:

I see. And what years were you there?

MJ:

That was, let me see, '70 through '75, and finished in '75. Went back to the seminary in '75 and finished the seminary in '78.

EP:

Oh, so you did not attend college immediately after graduating?

MJ:

No.

EP:

May I ask what you did after graduation from high school?

MJ:

I was working for the American Insurance Company.

EP:

I see. Did you—how long did you continue to do that?

MJ:

Oh, that was about eleven years. Prior to that, I worked for the M&M [Merchant and Manufacturers] Club fourteen years, yeah.

EP:

I see. So you worked from '37 to about '51 or '52?

MJ:

Something like that, yeah.

EP:

For the M&M?

MJ:

That's right.

EP:

And then you went to work for the American Insurance Company?

MJ:

That's correct.

EP:

So you attended college and seminary while you were working for the American Insurance Company?

MJ:

Right.

EP:

I see. And you attended seminary where?

MJ:

At Salisbury. In other words, the—that is the graduate school of Livingstone College.

EP:

I see.

MJ:

[Hood] Theological Seminary.

EP:

How did you become involved in civil rights activities?

MJ:

Well, naturally having seen the need, you know, for some changes in our economic visions and this sort of thing, and having been in the ministry, that was part of my ministerial work, I felt. And just get yourself involved, hopefully, that you can help bring about change in conditions, economic conditions. And—

EP:

Where was your church?

MJ:

At Ellerbe, North Carolina. A.M.E. [African Methodist Episcopal] Zion Church.

EP:

So you lived here in Greensboro and, and just commuted?

MJ:

Yeah. That was seventy-five miles from Greensboro.

EP:

I see. What was the first civil rights activities you were involved in?

MJ:

Well, that was it, actually. Of course, having been a member of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] for quite some time and, of course, as you know, the NAACP is sort of the legal arm when it comes to civil rights. But the CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] was an active organization and sort of frontline organization that makes personal contact to see if things can be changed. And having been acquainted with the CORE, we decided to organize a chapter here.

EP:

May I ask, did you work with George Simkins [president of the Greensboro NAACP chapter] here in town as a member of the NAACP?

MJ:

Yes, church-wise, you know, by alerting the people of the various meetings and voter registration and—

EP:

Did you hold an office in that organization?

MJ:

No, I didn't hold an office.

EP:

What sort of voter registration activities were you involved in?

MJ:

Well, voter registrations at various churches. And, of course, making appeals to the people on your church bulletins and by way of announcements relative to voter registration for those who had not, who—persons who had never registered to vote. We inspired them to vote.

EP:

Was there ever any difficulty in registering or voting in Greensboro?

MJ:

Not too much. It didn't meet with any resistance. However, you always find some who, who would rather feel separate and apart from political activities. And some people just don't want to get involved. But after much, after they saw the way the tide was turning, or after they realized that their votes would have some definite effect on their lifestyles, then the attitude began to change.

EP:

Were you involved in the Greensboro Citizens Association?

MJ:

No. That is—Citizens Association? [pause] No.

EP:

I was wondering. They were formed, as I understand, to—under Hobart Jarrett [Bennett College faculty member]—to elect [African American physician] William Hampton to the city council in 1951.

MJ:

Right. Well, I paid into it, you know, as a contributor, but not an actual member, as such.

EP:

You, you did not take an active part in that?

MJ:

Only, only encouraging others to help defray expenses, this kind of thing. Raising funds for that. But I wasn't an actual member as such.

EP:

I see. Were you involved in the efforts to try to get black children enrolled in predominantly white schools during the 1950s?

MJ:

Yes, through the, through CORE. And as, again, through trying to encourage parents. Yes.

EP:

I see. Did you witness or participate in the sit-ins of the lunch counter in the spring of 1960?

MJ:

No, but following that we, I participated directly in the marches.

EP:

So you were not involved with the formation of the Student Executive Committee for Justice at A&T [North Carolina A&T State University]?

MJ:

No.

EP:

I see.

MJ:

[unclear]

EP:

Were you a member of the Ministerial Alliance?

MJ:

Yes.

EP:

I see. What, what sort of activities did they involve in or participate in during the sit-ins? Were they involved in any way?

MJ:

Yes, they were directly involved in that, each of them. Of course, they encouraged it. And they did it because we felt that we were the leaders, you know, the people which we are, which we were. And, of course, we felt that the ministers would naturally have to take—step out in front [unclear].

EP:

Can you give me any specific names of ministers who were particularly active?

MJ:

Yeah. Rev. Cecil Bishop [of Trinity AME Zion], Otis Hairston [of Shiloh Baptist Church], Lorenzo Lynch [of Providence Baptist Church]. Let me see. Lorenzo Lynch. [pause] Well, actually, all of them. I can't think of—some of them have died since then.

EP:

Was this discussed informally or in the actual meeting of the, the Ministerial Alliance?

MJ:

Was what?

EP:

Was this activism discussed in the meetings of the Alliance?

MJ:

Oh, yes, the planning sessions and meetings. Having planning sessions at meetings, working along with the civil rights workers in order to, to formulate plans for the marches and the sit-ins and everything else.

EP:

In speaking to Ezell Blair [now Jibreel Khazan, one of the Greensboro Four], he mentioned that there was a small group of A&T and Bennett students who were town students. And that they would meet regularly at your house during that summer.

MJ:

Right.

EP:

Did you participate in their meetings?

MJ:

Oh, yeah.

EP:

What was discussed?

MJ:

Well, the same thing that I forementioned relative to our economic conditions, job situations, integrations in schools, the—trying to break down the barriers of segregation, the eating establishments and movie houses, hotel accommodations, those areas.

EP:

Who—I see. Who amongst the students and adults in the community attended these meetings?

MJ:

Well, there were my two daughters, Sarah and Betty, and Marian, my baby girl. All of us were involved, the entire family. And, of course, Ezell Blair, his sister [Gloria Jean Blair Howard], David Richmond. And later on, Jesse Jackson was with us when we organized the chapter of CORE.

EP:

Well, I was thinking of the initial group. Some of the names that were listed to me, I've mentioned here.

MJ:

Bill Thomas, Ezell Blair. I think David Richmond was with us.

EP:

Was your nephew, Wendell Scott?

MJ:

Yeah. He was, he was one among them, too.

EP:

The other names I have are Lewis Brandon.

MJ:

That's right, Lewis Brandon.

EP:

Pat Patterson.

MJ:

Right, Pat Patterson.

EP:

Lois Lucas.

MJ:

That's correct.

EP:

Paula Jewell.

MJ:

Yeah.

EP:

Now, I also have the names of several members of the faculty of A&T and Bennett, such as Tony Stanley, Elizabeth Laizner, John Hatchett—

MJ:

That's right.

EP:

And John—James Bush.

MJ:

That's correct, every last one of those.

EP:

Why did they select your house at which to meet?

MJ:

Well, being a minister, being in that neighborhood, and being I lived close to Blair and he knew the sentiment I had for improving, or the attitude I had toward improving the black voting privileges, living conditions, job opportunities, and of course, as we said, hotel accommodations, the whole gamut. He was very familiar with the way I felt, and as a result of that we made contact with James Farmer to see if we could organize a chapter. And this is what we did. We felt that we needed a solid front, an active organization, you know, who was right on the frontline. And this is why we organized a chapter of CORE.

EP:

How did you become aware of CORE?

MJ:

Well, being a member of the NAACP, I was familiar with SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], CORE, and all the civil rights movements.

EP:

I see. So you, you made the initial contact, is that correct?

MJ:

We, we did together. We all did it together.

EP:

I have heard that B. Elton Cox came over and spoke to you.

MJ:

That's right. That's correct.

EP:

You knew him personally, didn't you?

MJ:

Oh, yes.

EP:

How did you meet him?

MJ:

Well, through—well, he was a minister, of course. He is a minister. And, of course, we, we met after having met in High Point [North Carolina] for civil rights meetings and so on. However, I knew him before then. And, of course, he was very active in civil rights himself. And that is largely the way I came to know him.

EP:

Did—I understand that there may have been an earlier general meeting with [field secretaries] Gordon Carey and Jim McCain of CORE here in Greensboro? Does that sound—

MJ:

That, that's correct. That is correct.

EP:

But I gather the chapter was not formed at that time?

MJ:

No, it was in its formal—it was being formulated at that time. We talked about it and we got all of the data. We became familiar with the activities, reasons for them and whatever. We had known about this organization for quite some time because they were very active.

EP:

Had they ever considered, had you ever considered formulating with another group such as SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] or SNCC?

MJ:

Well, no. SCLC wasn't organized formally at that time. I think it was the youngest among the civil rights organizations. And, of course, when Dr. [Martin Luther] King came on the scene, I think it was organized then. It wasn't as widespread then as it is now. But I had been a member of NAACP a long time.

EP:

Did George Simkins work with you in helping form the chapter?

MJ:

Well, through—by way of encouragement. He had his hands full with NAACP [laughs].

EP:

Was there much resentment on the part of the NAACP that these people were leaving the youth chapter and forming a rival civil rights organization?

MJ:

No, there wasn't. He naturally encouraged them to, as many as would, remain members as possible. But there was never any rivalry there. There was never any resentment as far as I've been able to determine, because he saw the need of an active group as well. He, as well as everybody else, saw the need of a formal active group, inasmuch as the NAACP is just the legal arm, you know. They don't do any, any campaigning as such.

EP:

Did this org[anization]—did this group that eventually formed itself into a CORE chapter meet at your house frequently?

MJ:

Yeah.

EP:

How frequently?

MJ:

Oh, we met at least—some time at the beginning we met sometimes twice a week. And later on, after it was formally organized, we met about once a month, or whenever the need arise—whenever the need arose, we would meet more frequently. Sometimes there were, there were emergency meetings, you know, we thought we needed to come together. And we, we stayed on top of everything.

EP:

Okay. Well, I was wondering about the time sequence. This group started meeting as early—at your house—as early as the summer of 1960. But the date I have for the CORE chapter formation was May 1962.

MJ:

That's correct.

EP:

What sort of activities did they engage in in those two years?

MJ:

Well, largely traveling, working with other groups, sort of testing the water, you know, many of us.

EP:

What sort of other groups did they work with?

MJ:

Well, SNCC was very active. We didn't—we never organized a chapter of SNCC in Greensboro, but—Student Nonviolent Organization [sic]. You've heard about that one?

EP:

Yes.

MJ:

But we just sort of worked independently, you know.

EP:

Well, you know, the newspaper doesn't show any activity from the summer of 1960 at—when the picketing of the lunch counters stopped, until there was picketing of the Cinema Theatre.

MJ:

That's correct.

EP:

In February 1961.

MJ:

And the Mayfair Cafeteria, S&W [Cafeteria].

EP:

Among that packet of information I gave you there was a picture of this picketing of the Cinema, and Lewis Brandon says he was among that group. Did you recognize any others in that group?

MJ:

No, I didn't. It had been so long.

EP:

I see.

MJ:

But I, I knew—I do know that Lewis was among them.

EP:

Well, they identified themselves at the time as the Intercollegiate Council for Equality. Why did they adopt that name, do you know?

MJ:

Well, stemming from the college, that was the first name they sort of gave themselves. You know, something that would be more or less formal. That was done, I suppose—I had assumed that this was done that it would not directly involve the college as such. You know what I mean?

EP:

Yes.

MJ:

Not that the college would not endorse it, but they didn't want to put—I'm assuming that the reason they called themselves intercollegiate was largely because Bennett College was involved, the Woman's College [now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro] was involved, so was A&T at the time, and naturally would become the intercollegiate group. And that was—they were speaking primarily of themselves as college students or college, yeah, college students.

EP:

I see. Well, I know that about this same time, two, two things were related to this picketing of the theatre showing Porgy and Bess, but yet that remained segregated. It had started at Chapel Hill. And also, there was an announcement in the paper that SNCC was starting a campaign throughout the South to picket the theatres showing this movie. Was this officially a part of that same movement, or was this something that they did entirely independently?

MJ:

They did it independent, but for the same cause. And, of course, they did it and we did it in Greensboro, but the cause was the same.

EP:

So they did not work with either Chapel Hill or SNCC out of Atlanta?

MJ:

No.

EP:

I see. There was no communication or anything?

MJ:

Well, there was, so far as friends who were members of SNCC and this kind of thing, you know, as to the progress. But there was no, no—

EP:

Formal—

MJ:

Formal—

EP:

connection.

MJ:

—together of the groups. They worked independently.

EP:

How long did they picket the Cinema?

MJ:

Well, it was quite a few months, I would say.

EP:

Oh, and specifically at the Cinema in addition to downtown?

MJ:

Well, yes, the downtown Cinema and any other amusement place. That lasted for several—not too many months.

EP:

Did you advise them?

MJ:

Oh, yes. We all advised them, sure.

EP:

By “we all,” whom are you referring to?

MJ:

Well, the other ministers as well. We met with the group and we served to sort of keep, keeping them in check, you know, so that no one would become violent or lose their tempers or this kind of thing.

EP:

Did—but this was not done under the auspices of CORE as yet, is that right?

MJ:

Well, yes and no. CORE was in the, in the, they were in the formal, they were forming. They were in the stage of being formulated at the time. And, of course, when they were formally organized, then we just decided to do a little more than they had done in the past.

EP:

I was wondering, why was there the delay in—from 1960 to 1962—forming the CORE chapter? Were they not sure they wanted to go with CORE or—

MJ:

No, it wasn't that, it was a matter of regrouping. It was a matter of trying to keep the interest up and trying to stimulate more interest. We were, we were concerned about getting a pretty good supportive membership, you see. And, of course, things were beginning to fall in place. I mean the—our anticipations were being met in some instances. We never reached a point of being, becoming complacent or satisfied with what had taken place so far. But it was a matter of regrouping and sorting out things to see where you are, because CORE was young in this area, you know. And, of course, we had to sort of feel our way.

EP:

Now you mentioned that they were testing restaurants and theatres and so forth. Were they—what did this testing consist of?

MJ:

Well, it consisted of going there. In a sense, it was for—I like to look on it as being a necessary nuisance, you know what I mean? It was simply saying to the proprietors that we want the accommodations, and we feel as citizens of America that we should have the right to eat in the various places.

EP:

Did they send out test teams?

MJ:

Well, yes, yes.

EP:

Were you ever a member of such a team?

MJ:

Oh, yes.

EP:

What was the response you got from the managers?

MJ:

Well, Boyd Morris, who was manager of the Mayfair Cafeteria at that time, vowed that he would never, I mean that he was—he would not integrate. And, of course, we would leave and we would come back. And finally, through the, the persuasion of the mayor when we had that sit-down uptown that night.

EP:

I was wondering, what—can you remember any of the specific places that you visited?

MJ:

It was the Mayfair and I think it was the, either the S&W or the N&W. I think it was the S&W.

EP:

Yes.

MJ:

That place.

EP:

Did you visit theatres?

MJ:

Yes, the Carolina Theatre, the National Theatre. The—and there was a hamburger place, I can't recall now the name of it.

EP:

Krystal [Burger]?

MJ:

Krystal, yeah, Krystal.

EP:

But none of these places desegregated.

MJ:

Well, eventually they did.

EP:

But not at this time, is that right?

MJ:

Not at this time, no. And plus it was largely through Mayor Schenck's persuasion after we had the, the sit-in, the sit-in downtown that—

EP:

I was wondering. I know that John Taylor of the Holiday Inn desegregated very early. Was that a result of your efforts?

MJ:

Yes, it was. And, of course, the main idea was never to become violent nor forceful, but simply to prick the consciences of the proprietors and business people.

EP:

Now was it just your organization, these students that were doing this, or were there other groups doing it at the same time?

MJ:

I would say the students, the CORE, after it was formulated, and the churches' ministerial alliances.

EP:

Oh, they were, they were visiting these places independently?

MJ:

Right.

EP:

Well, as you can see, I'm trying to get a sort of a time sequence of events. I was wondering, did you influence the students to choose CORE?

MJ:

Well, not necessarily. We knew that CORE was a very active organization. And we felt that it could be very effective in this area, inasmuch as Greensboro was first, you know, to actually penetrate the segregated wall. And we knew how active CORE had been, and we felt that it was very effective in this instance.

EP:

Well, did the students always meet at your house, or did they meet elsewhere as well?

MJ:

They met at my house and other places, too. We met at the house, we met at churches, and—but primarily at my home.

EP:

I see. We've mentioned that they adopted this Intercollegiate Council for Equality for the—was that created at the time of the picketing of the Cinema Theatre in '61 or, or had that been before?

MJ:

It, it was actually prior to that, because here you had three colleges involved, you know. And, of course, this is my opinion about them not wanting to directly involve the college per se, you know. And the students respected their colleges that much to not be a blight on the college as such, you know. And, of course, I feel that this is why they called themselves that.

EP:

But they didn't get any negative reaction from the colleges saying, “You cannot meet on campus” and this kind of—

MJ:

No, no. This never occurred.

EP:

Did they maintain this name until they adopted the CORE chapter, or did they adopt several different names?

MJ:

No, that was, that name and CORE were the only ones to my knowledge.

EP:

I see.

MJ:

I don't think there were any others.

EP:

Did B. Elton Cox continue to come on a regular basis or just intermittently?

MJ:

Intermittently. But at the same time he was very occupied in High Point. And, of course, being between High Point and Greensboro, you know, he was quite the speaker. And whenever we could, we had him come and—

EP:

I, I get the impression that the Greensboro students who eventually formed the CORE chapter participated in some of his earlier picketing against McDonald's in High Point.

MJ:

Oh, yes. We went over there.

EP:

Did you go to other cities or did you limit it just to High Point?

MJ:

We went to High Point, and that was about it—Greensboro and High Point. We felt if we could get these two—because they both are in Guilford County—and if we could get these two desegregated, this was our reason for frequenting the two places.

EP:

Did, did your nephew, Wendell Scott, live with you at this time?

MJ:

Yes, he did.

EP:

I see. So your, your house really became more or less the headquarters.

MJ:

Yes.

EP:

How long did it remain such? Did, did they continue to meet at your house after they formed the CORE chapter, or did CORE open an office?

MJ:

Well, we didn't have an office as such. They met at my house. And sometimes we would meet around at various houses, but primarily at my house. Now after it began to grow, they would meet with Dr. Elizabeth Laizner. Sometimes we'd meet at the Thomas boy's residence. And sometimes we'd meet with Blair. But, but the, the initial meeting was held at my house.

EP:

Was there any reason why they sometimes changed meeting locations?

MJ:

No. Some days it was a matter of convenience for those who were involved—the principal members like Dr. Laizner. So there were times when she would, it would be more convenient for us to meet at her place than it would at my place. You know, she was teaching, she had a pretty heavy teaching load, and she lived near the school. And that was primarily the reason. And, of course, we all had the similar reasons. And there were times when I wasn't there but my daughters were.

EP:

Could you characterize the, the, the leaders of the chapter in terms of personality—their maturity, their, their goals, that sort of thing? I was—

MJ:

Yes. They were all solid citizens. We always continued to, to speak out against violence. Everyone was very calm and sensible. We sought out things. We would analyze situations before we attempted to do anything or say anything. We would always meet and discuss these matters. And they were fully mature. As a matter of fact, I was pleasantly surprised at the attitude of those younger men and women. Nobody lost their heads. And, of course, out of the meetings came examples of maturity even among some teenagers and twenty-year-olds.

EP:

Were there any that, that were more aggressive, maybe even hotheaded than others?

MJ:

No. That, we didn't experience. We did not tolerate that. And, of course, Jesse Jackson was persistent but never hotheaded.

EP:

Now when, when did Jackson come into the picture? Was it after the mass demonstrations had started or earlier?

MJ:

Well, it was during the time he was president of the student body at A&T. And, of course, he was involved during the whole time, but he became more active when we began picketing these eating places, especially the Mayfair Cafeteria. [He was] one of the principal leaders in that, in that campaign. And, of course, other leaders would go to other places. We all couldn't go at the same places all the time.

EP:

How would you characterize Bill Thomas?

MJ:

A very sensible young man with a very good mind, a very analytic mind, and solid as a dollar.

EP:

How about some of the other individuals such as Lewis Brandon and, and Pat Patterson?

MJ:

They were all of the same pattern. There were no peers as such. They were all of the same kind of temperament. And any heated—I don't want to say arguments—but conversations would be among all of us, you know. But no one, we never experienced any who were hotheaded.

EP:

Now, how are decisions arrived at? Once the executive committee was formed, who were the members? And did they usually make the decisions or, or the entire membership as a whole?

MJ:

The entire membership. We try to have it as democratic as possible, that everybody could have some input. And of course, having taken a census of whatever the project was, we all picked it to pieces. And we would weigh the, the advantages against the disadvantages and this kind of thing. If we saw the thing was expedient, we would do it Thursday. If not, we would do it later.

EP:

I, I was wondering about were, were things put to a vote and then the outcome of the vote determined whether or not something was done?

MJ:

In a sense, depending upon the temperature of the persons that we wanted to contact, you know, sitting down at bargaining tables and this kind of thing. We always tried to, to get the temperature, you know.

EP:

Were there any white groups that—or interracial groups that you met with? I'm thinking specifically now of the Greensboro Community Fellowship, and the YWCA [Young Women's Christian Association], and organizations like that.

MJ:

Yes. They were all sympathetic and, and encouraging. And of course, the Greensboro Ministerial Fellowship—now that was an integrated group. They, some of them would endorse it, and of course, others were very quiet about it. But for the most part they were sympathetic towards—

EP:

Did you, did you attend meetings of these organizations?

MJ:

Yes. I was a member of both groups, the black and the white, the integrated group. The black group was more vocal and participated more openly.

EP:

Well, did the white ministers, did they more or less just ignore the race question, or did they, they discuss it?

MJ:

No. They never did ignore it. Dr. John Redhead, during the time he was pastor of First Presbyterian Church, he spoke in favor of brotherhood, fellowship, integration. Dr. Claud Bowen, pastor of the First Baptist Church.

EP:

Did any of them try to take any active steps in integrating their churches, however?

MJ:

Well, you mean the white ministers?

EP:

Yes.

MJ:

I don't know. There was never any protest as to white—to black attendance. There was never any problem in Greensboro at that time.

EP:

What I'm thinking about is specifically, there was an open letter to the press by Dr. Bowen at West Market Street [United] Methodist [Church] and—urging that the S&W and Mayfair desegregate.

MJ:

Yes.

EP:

And Armistead Sapp, in turn, held a press conference and, and accused him of hypocrisy.

MJ:

Yes. That, that happened, yes.

EP:

You recall that?

MJ:

Yes, I recall that.

EP:

Was that a rare instance, or were there other instances of that?

MJ:

Well, no, there—that was about the only instance where there was any sort of rebuttal, but—met with any resistance. But then after David Schenck was the mayor, and several other sort of influential persons spoke in favor of the integration, many minds were changed, many hearts were changed.

EP:

Did you communicate regularly with the national CORE office in New York?

MJ:

Quite, quite a bit, yes.

EP:

What was the nature of this communication?

MJ:

Well, just progress primarily.

EP:

In other words, reports as to what you were doing.

MJ:

Yes. Right.

EP:

Did they send down any representatives?

MJ:

Yeah, James Farmer was down several times, the national leader of CORE.

EP:

Well, did they leave most of the day-to-day working to Reverend Cox?

MJ:

Well, not necessarily. All of those who were involved. And of course, we would elect among ourselves those who wanted to go on the frontline for various things, persons who were—had expertise in given areas. We tried to play it as scientific as possible, you know.

EP:

Would you, would you make any decisions to begin picketing a certain place before consulting with Reverend Cox or the national office, or did you try to get any feedback from them first?

MJ:

We would try always to get feedback from them as to the advisability, as to the expediency, this kind of thing.

EP:

Were they responsive, favorably?

MJ:

Yes, for the most part. But we were always advised to, you know, search out a thing very carefully first. And—

EP:

You, you mentioned that for the most part, they were favorable. Were there ever any instances when they were not?

MJ:

Very seldom, very seldom.

EP:

I, I have looked through the CORE archives and I did find one instance when Gordon Carey, who is the program director, seemed to be upset that members of the Greensboro CORE had attended rallies for the Monroe Defense League and Robert Williams [president of the Monroe NAACP] down in Monroe [North Carolina], and, actually, to the point where they sent down a representative and asked them not to participate any more. Do you recall that?

MJ:

Vaguely. In the meanwhile, I had moved from Greensboro at that time. But I stayed in communication with, with the chapter.

EP:

When, when did you leave Greensboro?

MJ:

Oh, it was in, let's see, around 1972 or '3, I believe it was, something like that.

EP:

I see. Well, did you work with any other activists in the black community besides the ministers you've mentioned and Dr. Simkins?

MJ:

No.

EP:

I see.

MJ:

CORE, NAACP, Ministerial Alliance.

EP:

That's about it.

MJ:

That's about it, yeah. They were the stronger of forces.

EP:

Okay. In the summer of 1962, CORE held a training workshop. I think they took their meals at Bennett College. They may have stayed there on campus. And then they met at one of the local churches. They held a two-week training session for the Freedom Highway Project. Do you recall that?

MJ:

Yes, I recall that, exactly, yes.

EP:

Do you know how that came about? Why they—how—whose decision it was to select Greensboro, and how it came about, and whom they contacted here in Greensboro to help set it up?

MJ:

Largely because of the civil rights movement having begun there. And of course, that was a fertile soil.

EP:

Did—so I gather the idea emanated from the national office and then they contacted you and the other members of CORE?

MJ:

Right, that's correct.

EP:

Do you remember the specific circumstances under which they contacted you?

MJ:

Only to get involved in the civil rights movement. Now they, seldom would they attempt to put on any kind of demonstration without having workshops, you know, so the thing could be carried out as smoothly as possible. This—James Farmer insisted on that, as well as the program director.

EP:

Did you attend any of the training sessions?

MJ:

Once or twice when I could, you know.

EP:

What sort of things did they discuss?

MJ:

Well, meetings, negotiations, methods of demonstrating, marches, posters, and things of this nature. Things that, to say, things not to say, things to do, things not to do.

EP:

Did you attend the picketing at the Hot Shoppe during this time?

MJ:

On one occasion, yes, yes.

EP:

What occurred at that time?

MJ:

Nothing but just resistance and refusal to integrate.

EP:

Did they enter the, the establishment and sit down?

MJ:

Yeah.

EP:

Did you ever speak personally with the manager, Clyde Erwin, or his legal representative, Armistead Sapp?

MJ:

No, only in accompanying others to these various meetings. So I never spoke to them.

EP:

Did you ever actually go inside or did you stay outside?

MJ:

Oh, there were times when I went inside.

EP:

What, what happened under those, in those instances?

MJ:

Oh, nothing. They would—they were very courteous. And, of course, we sought what we sought. And of course, for the most part, for a while, their answer was in the negative vein. And, of course—but there was never any heated discussions about things. Nobody ever lost their heads.

EP:

So no violence or anything?

MJ:

No.

EP:

Were you present or aware of when, when the Hot Shoppe agreed to desegregate?

MJ:

I wasn't present at that time, no.

EP:

I see. But you say at this time CORE was operating out of your house and several churches. They, they had no official office of their own?

MJ:

That is correct.

EP:

I see. I was wondering, do you have any idea how these individuals knew how to get in touch with members of CORE?

MJ:

Well, actually it was, it was highly publicized. The civil rights workers knew about it. And of course, we had been keeping abreast of the activities throughout New Orleans and other places in the Deep South, as well as in the North. And of course, they seemed to have been effective in their procedures. And of course, that's what we, we decided that this would be the right organization to help bring about the change that we were seeking.

EP:

Were there ever any white individuals who acted on their own, not as a part of an organized group? I'm thinking of McNeill Smith [local civil rights attorney]. Were there any others?

MJ:

Yes. There were some college students from the Woman's College up there. [pause] Yes.

EP:

Did McNeill Smith ever meet with you?

MJ:

No, he, he never met with us, as such.

EP:

I see. How about people in the Greensboro Community Fellowship, like John Taylor and Warren Ashby and people like that?

MJ:

No. But they were very outspoken.

EP:

I see. Did you participate in strategy planning or discussion of the picketing of the S&W and Mayfair in the fall of 1962 and the boycott that was initiated at that time?

MJ:

Yes.

EP:

How was it planned? What sort of tactics did they discuss using and that sort of thing?

MJ:

Well, just making the approach, making an attempt to enter, not to force one's way in. But calling attention to the proprietors that, what we wanted and this kind of thing. That was the only way to approach it. As I said, violence was just ruled out. Of course, if he prevented us from entering, we did not force our way in. Unlike the F. W. Woolworth's, they just went in and sat down. But of course, when someone is standing in the doorway, you don't try to force your way into a man's establishment.

EP:

How was the boycott decided on and publicized, and how was it maintained?

MJ:

Well, we would always notify the police department when we were going to demonstrate. And we would have to get clearance from them as well as protection from the police department. But no one ever just demonstrated on their own. The police department was always notified, and the fire department as well.

EP:

Do you recall any of the members of the task force that came down from CORE, such individuals as Jerome Smith, Isaac Reynolds, Moon Eng, George Raymond? Do any of those names ring a bell?

MJ:

Yes, all of them, plus the director, James Farmer.

EP:

What, what was their role?

MJ:

Well, being officials. And they would share with us their expertise, their experiences, some of the things that they had encountered. And of course, all this was used as a means of helping us to make the right approaches and this kind of thing. We profited primarily on their experiences.

EP:

Did they ever carry any orders or directives from the national office, or did they just suggest things and—

MJ:

They just suggested things.

EP:

And it was up to the local chapter to accept or reject them?

MJ:

Yes, depending on the atmosphere, you know, in a, in a certain locale. In other words, the same thing that would work in Greensboro wouldn't work in Birmingham, Alabama. You see what I'm saying?

EP:

Yes.

MJ:

So we, we had to—and, and we were told that. The same thing that would work in New York would not work in Greensboro. Sometimes it would. It just depended on the atmosphere, the attitude that—we had to consider all factors in order to arrive at any sensible conclusions and make any sensible decisions. And that tied with a psychological approach, philosophical approach, and approaches stemming primarily from past experiences.

EP:

Do you recall who amongst these individuals was the most effective or influential?

MJ:

Well, actually all of them. I mean, [laughs] you know, it's hard to pick out any one. But they were all very, very effective.

EP:

Do you—where did they stay when they were—

[End Tape 1, Side A-Begin Tape 1, Side B]

EP:

Did they ever stay with you?

MJ:

Yes. Thomas spent the night with us upon occasion.

EP:

What did you talk about?

MJ:

Well, actually, when the workshops were over we talked about going to bed, because we had stayed up kind of late. Seldom did we discuss the activities. I mean we would perhaps give a, you know, sort of summarize what had transpired in the course of the night's work [?]. But so far as discussing any of the details, we would always wait until we met with the officers, you know, and, of the local chapter before we discussed anything.

EP:

So it was just purely personal conversation?

MJ:

That's correct. Yeah. But nothing to do with the activities as such. Did you ever get in touch with my daughter?

EP:

No, I did not. Did—could you characterize your, your daughter's involvement?

MJ:

I think she served as secretary.

EP:

I see. And I understand that your nephew was actually the first chairman of the organization. Is that correct?

MJ:

That's correct.

EP:

Why did he give up that position?

MJ:

Well, he, he left there and went to New Jersey, you know, after having gone to A&T, I think, for about a year. And then he decided to go back to New Jersey.

EP:

But your daughter stayed with it throughout the mass demonstrations?

MJ:

Oh, yes. Right.

EP:

I see. Did you—did they ever participate in the Freedom Highway Project once it moved over to Durham?

MJ:

Yeah, I think they did.

EP:

Did you?

MJ:

No, I didn't. I was working, you know, and of course, I couldn't get away.

EP:

Was your daughter ever arrested?

MJ:

They were all arrested, [laughs] especially the, the night we had the sit-down in the city.

EP:

Well, before the “jail no bail” was—strategy was enacted, who was responsible for, for providing their bail?

MJ:

Well, no bails, no bails.

EP:

In other words, they decided to stay in jail from the beginning?

MJ:

Right, that's right.

EP:

Where was your daughter incarcerated?

MJ:

Uptown there at the square. This is where they all were arrested, including my wife—the whole works.

EP:

Did, did she stay out at the polio hospital?

MJ:

Yes, yeah, all of them. They all stayed out there.

EP:

Did you ever visit her out there?

MJ:

Yes. We carried out supplies, needed supplies that they wanted. Matter of fact, I didn't necessarily visit my daughters or wife or anything. We just carried the stuff out there because—

EP:

Oh, you weren't allowed to actually go back and see them.

MJ:

Oh, yes. We could talk with our families, sure.

EP:

Oh, did you go back to where they were kept?

MJ:

Yes.

EP:

What were conditions like?

MJ:

They were all right, just crowded, you know. But nothing like Holiday Inn or anything like that. But they made it. They were willing to, to, to put up with the conditions rather than be released from prison. That was—

EP:

Did you ever meet with members of the Human Relations Commission under Brent—Bland Worley?

MJ:

Not as such. Our representatives did. Blair knows. They were appointed to meet with them, you know. Bill Thomas and so on, I think maybe they may have met with them, but I didn't.

EP:

Do you recall how the decision was made to begin picketing the McDonald's on May eleventh that started the mass demonstrations?

MJ:

I don't recall the strategy that was set up by them. I recall that it was one place that was targeted, a very popular establishment where they wanted to eat, and they decided that they would picket the place like they did the others.

EP:

Do you recall how the decision was made to, to continue and make this, rather than just a small operation, to begin mass demonstrations?

MJ:

Well, primarily these were chain, you know, organizations throughout the country. And of course, some were perhaps integrated in other areas of the country, and especially McDonald's. And of course, they did as much as Woolworth. F. W. Woolworth was a chain company. They, they naturally would take the first look at the chain-owned organizations. And of course, we felt that this would in turn speak to the private-owned businesses. You see what I'm saying?

EP:

Yes. Were you a member of CORE?

MJ:

Yeah.

EP:

So, did you serve on the executive committee?

MJ:

No. No.

EP:

You, you were just a member of CORE?

MJ:

That's right, because I didn't have the time, you know, the kind of time that would be required. But I was always there and always supportive—

EP:

Did you sit in on any meetings or anything?

MJ:

Yes, I gave whatever support I could.

EP:

Did, did they ask your advice on things?

MJ:

Oh, very definitely, yes, counseling and that kind of thing.

EP:

What, what was the nature of the advice?

MJ:

Well, the same things that we stress time and time again. And that was always the spiritual side that we would never want them to forget. After all, much of our work was done, was being done out of the churches, you know. And we would do nothing that would infringe on the, on the good name of a church in the name of Christ, you know. This was how we felt. And for the most part, this kind of advice was sought.

Behavior, behavior patterns were stressed, you know. No beer drinking, no cigarette smoking, or anything like that, publicly, that would cause the slightest blight on anything that you were attempting. In other words, we stressed decency, you know, because we felt that the proprietors would, would appreciate and respect this. Prior to that time, some whites had always felt that black people were just dirty and, you know, this kind of thing. And, of course, we had to stress cleanliness. As you notice, some of the snapshots—all were always well-dressed.

EP:

Do you recall the circumstances surrounding the formation of the Coordinating Committee of Pro-integration Groups?

MJ:

Yeah. You mean some of the matters that were discussed?

EP:

Well, there was a—Lewis Brandon told me that they very quickly contacted members of the Ministerial Alliance, the NAACP, and the Greensboro Citizens Association.

MJ:

Right.

EP:

And that what was formed was sort of an advisory group of primarily these four organizations and citizens at-large.

MJ:

Right. Yes.

EP:

I think it eventually reached a number of about thirty-five.

MJ:

Yes.

EP:

Did you serve on this committee?

MJ:

Yes, I did, yes.

EP:

How, how did it come about to be formed?

MJ:

Well, actually, we felt that these persons, these organizations, could reach the greater number of persons, both white and black. These persons—Bland Worley, Taylor, as you mentioned—were very influential businessmen, and people respected them very highly. The Ministerial Alliance, naturally, was, could reach all the people—both the Ministerial Alliance and the Ministerial Forum. And it, of course, the objective was to get a listening ear of all of Greensboro citizens and High Point citizens. And we felt that these businessmen, being as well-known as they were, would, you know, be influential and keep getting the ear of people.

EP:

What I was referring to was the organizations of—it was composed of just black organizations that served to, to act as advisors to CORE. And I believe Reverend [Richard L.] Hicks [at Church of the Redeemer]—Father Hicks was the, the chairman.

MJ:

Right.

EP:

Were you a member of that organization?

MJ:

Yes, I think I was. Really, I was in everything.

EP:

Did they meet regularly?

MJ:

As regularly as was needed, as we saw the need to meet.

EP:

What sort of things would they do at their meetings?

MJ:

Well, only discuss—we would always focus on the needs of our people, the hopes and aspirations of our people, that we would try to work toward those things. At the same time, we would try to encourage people to attend meetings, and you know, by publicizing it in our churches on Sunday, this kind of thing. These are the things they focused on.

EP:

Did you participate or witness any demonstrations?

MJ:

Yeah.

EP:

So you did march?

MJ:

Oh, yes.

EP:

Do you remember any specific marches?

MJ:

Well, yeah. The specific one was, well, when we first began to demonstrate, to march, the initial one I was in; and subsequent ones; and of course, the one that occurred the night that we sat down in the city square.

EP:

What would happen on a typical march?

MJ:

Nothing. I mean, we were quiet. We would—the only thing we would do was to sing, “We Shall Overcome,” or some hymns or prayers at the courthouse steps or something like that. But there was never any altercations, you know. My daughter was missed by a knife. Somebody threw a knife one night.

EP:

Threw a knife at her?

MJ:

Yeah. And she was missed about an inch or so, but it didn't touch her, you know. That was the only, the biggest thing I knew. Of course—

EP:

Were there ever any other instances like that?

MJ:

No, no. We didn't give them reasons to do anything violent because we were not violent.

EP:

You don't remember which march that occurred?

MJ:

No, I don't. I think it was one prior to the big one.

EP:

I see.

MJ:

There was, naturally at times there were cat calls, unwholesome words spoken, and, of course, racial epithets, and this kind of thing but—

EP:

Did, did the police do a pretty good job keeping order and keeping violence from happening?

MJ:

Oh yes, they did a very good job, very good job.

EP:

Were you ever part of contacting the police and letting them know a march was going to take place and—

MJ:

Oh, yes. We always went in a committee. I mean, we never would go alone, or no one person would seldom go alone unless Thomas—he was well known. If he would go, he'd generally take someone with him, and, of course, as more or less as a witness. And we did contact the police department and—

EP:

Oh, you contacted them in person, not just by telephone.

MJ:

Oh yeah, yeah. We went there. We didn't call them on the telephone. We would always go to the police department.

EP:

Did you speak personally with Capt. [William] Jackson?

MJ:

Yes.

EP:

What was he like?

MJ:

Very nice fellow, very supportive.

EP:

What sort of questions would he ask you?

MJ:

Well, you know, our reasons for demonstrating, where would we be demonstrating, what time would the demonstration begin, when would it end.

EP:

Did they ever require you to get a permit?

MJ:

Yeah.

EP:

Was there any difficulty in obtaining a permit?

MJ:

No, no difficulty.

EP:

I see.

MJ:

Parade permit.

EP:

Did you obtain a permit every time before you went?

MJ:

Yes, we had to.

EP:

I see.

MJ:

That was a requirement.

EP:

Did he ever try to discourage you from demonstrating?

MJ:

No, because he knew they were going to demonstrate anyway.

EP:

Did you ever speak with any other city officials or police officials or any, anyone like that?

MJ:

No, just no more than casually or when we went to secure permits and this kind of thing. But there was never any long, drawn-out discussions about anything. They knew what our objectives were. They knew what our motives were. They knew what our hopes and aspirations were. So, you know, there wasn't a difficulty.

EP:

Did, did you ever participate in, or witness, any of the demonstrations where the students stood in the, in the area in front of the doors and were subsequently arrested by the police or the fire department?

MJ:

Yeah. Yes.

EP:

What would happen on, on those occasions?

MJ:

Oh, nothing. They would just go quietly.

EP:

I see.

MJ:

No resistance whatsoever.

EP:

How, how did the adult participation come about?

MJ:

Well, when they got the message—and of course, it takes people sometimes a long time to get the message. You must understand that there was a great wave of fear among blacks. You can readily understand that, having come from the slave era or having been subservient over a number of years, the feeling of reprisals, so far as their jobs is concerned. You can readily understand the attitude. But it wasn't very long before that was just put behind them. They put this behind them and just took a chance.

EP:

Were, were they contacted by any specific individual or groups of ministers or—

MJ:

Well, primarily in church meetings, church services and this kind of thing. Things were said about it, prayers were said about it. The sermons were preached about it—justice and equality and this kind of thing. And I think this stemmed, this really had more effect than we would in a formal meeting [unclear].

EP:

I understand there was a mass adult march on May twenty-third involving as many as two to five thousand people. Was that the first significant adult participation?

MJ:

Yeah. That's right.

EP:

How did that come about?

MJ:

Well, as a result of people being convinced, you know, and being inspired to bring, help bring about a change. They just felt that it would take all of us in order to get the heart, the, the ear, the eye, the heart of the nation.

EP:

Was there ever any one individual or group of individuals who were responsible for bringing that about?

MJ:

Yes, I would say the ministers primarily.

EP:

I see.

MJ:

Of course, CORE and the NAACP naturally depended on us and the use of the church facilities in order to get these messages. I've got an appointment at 6:25 and got to leave at [unclear] [laughs].

EP:

All right. Let me, let me just very quickly summarize. Could you describe what took place in mass meetings that were held?

MJ:

Yes.

EP:

A typical meeting.

MJ:

Yes, a typical meeting would be, the objectives would be presented. Methods of approaches would be presented. And as I forestated, always the discouragement of resorting to violence—name calling, rock throwing, anything of the sort. All of this was done repeatedly at planning sessions. And of course, we would always map out the places where we would frequent, what time element and the approach, this kind of thing.

EP:

Was there a division within the adult community as to those who supported the demonstrations and those who did not, felt that this was not the right approach?

MJ:

No, no. Seldom did you have a negative attitude about the whole thing. There were those who were reluctant to get involved at the very beginning, but that soon phased out and people found themselves involved.

EP:

How was it communicated that there would be a demonstration on a particular night in the adult community?

MJ:

Through the churches.

EP:

The church—people would call in or—

MJ:

No. Usually on Sundays, at prayer meetings, and people attended churches regularly. We would send out flyers and pass out flyers. Telephone calls. We used every, every means of communication we possibly could in order to alert the people.

EP:

Did—who would you regard as the leaders of the adult community at this time?

MJ:

Dr. [George] Evans [African American physician], John Tarpley [superintendent of black schools], you know, they became very active.

EP:

And they were very much involved and supported the demonstrations?

MJ:

Oh yes. Yeah, all of them.

EP:

Excuse me just a moment. Did your association with the CORE continue after the demonstrations ceased?

MJ:

Yes, for quite some time. Of course it—

EP:

What sort of activities were they involved in?

MJ:

Preparatory activities.

EP:

And by that you mean, what?

MJ:

In the event things were not realized, we never just dropped the guard, you know. We continued to meet and stay on the alert, more or less.

EP:

But demonstrations did not begin again, is that correct?

MJ:

That's correct. That's correct.

EP:

Do you know why they did not?

MJ:

Well, I think maybe in many instances that the people get a little complacent. Well, I don't want, I don't want to use that term. But they thought the bulk of the thing having been [unclear], public accommodations being met and this kind of thing, they saw no need to actually run it in the ground. However, nobody decided to dissolve, you know. But, of course, things began to grow better gradually. And that was just about it.

EP:

Did, did CORE formally dissolve or did it just sort of fade away?

MJ:

Yeah. No, no, it's, it's still intact.

EP:

I meant locally in Greensboro.

MJ:

Well, I don't know about now. I think there are—persons who are involved still contact the headquarters, I would think.

EP:

Did you participate in any other civil rights activities after the mass demonstrations?

MJ:

Yes, I participated in the March on Washington in 1963.

EP:

Was that organized by CORE and NAACP and the other groups?

MJ:

Yes. It was formally organized in Greensboro.

EP:

Okay.

MJ:

We got buses. And, of course, that took place in St. Stephen's United Church of Christ on Gorrell Street. And that is where the buses left, met. This was the meeting place and the return place.

EP:

Did you, you actually went up to Washington?

MJ:

Yeah, I did.

EP:

Did—were you near the front or at the back or—

MJ:

In the bus?

EP:

At the, at the—

MJ:

Demonstration?

EP:

Demonstration.

MJ:

Oh, we were all over, yeah, almost near the Lincoln Memorial, Lincoln Monument.

EP:

Did you—after that activity did you participate in anything else?

MJ:

Only—no, there really wasn't anything to participate in. Only unless it was an emergency call session or something like that.

EP:

I see. And you say you left Greensboro in 1972?

MJ:

Something like that, if I recall.

EP:

And where did you go then?

MJ:

I went to Ellerbe and then I went from there to Asheboro. And I was in a parsonage in Asheboro.

[End of Interview]